Is This My Forever?
By Katie Golway
I knew that going to the gynecologist was inevitable but I did not realize how it would affect me. I thought I would get off scot-free until menopause having refused two vaginal exams. I was content to ignore my body’s violent reactions to this invasion. I entertained this ignorance until I returned at age 23. I had switched doctors, and this one was a bit more persistent for the sake of my health.
I wept when the choice to deny an internal exam was taken from me. The nurse seemed panicked by my tears. She insisted that it was necessary to receive a pap smear every year starting at age 21, otherwise they could not give me my birth control. I did not hear what else she said. My mind had returned to Orlando’s aptly named Tower of Terror. I was trapped in the dark. My attacker’s laughter was drowned out as we were immersed in the Twilight Zone. Her hand in my underwear became my gynecologist’s tool.
I was no longer in control. However, in this room, there was a door. I chose to stay to protect this body against illness. I had sacrificed enough of my time and my power. Maintaining my health was an essential step to recovery.
The exam itself was painful – as someone who is not sexually active. My new doctor is a very kind woman. She explained every detail of the process to ease me into the idea. She insisted that I relax while I gripped the stuffing out of of the bed. Once I was able to sit up and catch my breath, it was over. I did not carry the experience with me. I did not have nightmares. I took control of what was to happen for the sake of my health.
I felt a genuine sense of power leaving my appointment. I joked about putting the results on the refrigerator, as one does with accomplishments. I came out with a clean bill of health. But, even if I did not, I took the right steps to find out.
I have interacted with people who do not understand how trauma manifests. Even I was not fully aware of why I was so scared. I did not have the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that I do now. Regardless, I made strides in a positive direction, that day. My trauma is still valid, whether it is understood or not.